1And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel;
Ezekiel is given a new message, a riddle in the form of a parable.
3And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; A great eagle with great wings, longwinged, full of feathers, which had divers colours, came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar: 4He cropped off the top of his young twigs, and carried it into a land of traffick; he set it in a city of merchants. 5He took also of the seed of the land, and planted it in a fruitful field; he placed it by great waters, and set it as a willow tree. 6And it grew, and became a spreading vine of low stature, whose branches turned toward him, and the roots thereof were under him: so it became a vine, and brought forth branches, and shot forth sprigs. 7There was also another great eagle with great wings and many feathers: and, behold, this vine did bend her roots toward him, and shot forth her branches toward him, that he might water it by the furrows of her plantation. 8It was planted in a good soil by great waters, that it might bring forth branches, and that it might bear fruit, that it might be a goodly vine. 9Say thou, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Shall it prosper? shall he not pull up the roots thereof, and cut off the fruit thereof, that it wither? it shall wither in all the leaves of her spring, even without great power or many people to pluck it up by the roots thereof. 10Yea, behold, being planted, shall it prosper? shall it not utterly wither, when the east wind toucheth it? it shall wither in the furrows where it grew.
Some symbols of note in this riddle/parable are:
1st great eagle = Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar
Great wings = vast empire (Isa. 8:8; Jer. 48:40; 49:2; Dan. 7:4)
Long winged = powerful empire capable of long reach and great endurance
Full of feathers of diverse colors = many tributary kingdoms and conquests
cedars of Lebanon = God’s people (Isa. 2:13; 10:34; 14:8; 29:17; Jer. 22:20, 23)
vine/branches = Judah under Zedekiah’s rule
great waters = the great rivers ofTigris and Euphrates, a symbol of Babylon
willow tree = Judah made dependant on the great waters, Babylon, no longer a mighty cedar
fruit = Zedekiah’s children
leaves = rest of the Jewish nobles
utterly wither = Zedekiah was the last king of Judah from David’s line
11Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 12Say now to the rebellious house, Know ye not what these things mean? tell them, Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him to Babylon;
The great eagle of splendor is Nebuchadnezzar. Lebanon is Jerusalem. The highest branches of the cedar are the top people in Jewish society, the king (Coniah) and princes. This was the first wave of captivity that snared both Daniel and Ezekiel.
13And hath taken of the king's seed, and made a covenant with him, and hath taken an oath of him: he hath also taken the mighty of the land: 14That the kingdom might be base, that it might not lift itself up, but that by keeping of his covenant it might stand.
The seed is the remnant of Jews, with Zedekiah set up by the Nebuchadnezzar (the eagle) as a puppet king (the covenant). The seed became a vine of low stature, meaning that Nebuchadnezzar kept Judah weak (taking the best including the military men and leaving the rest) so that it could not effectively rebel against Babylon. That the kingdom might be base refers to Gedaliah, the “steward” of Jerusalem after Zedekiah was gone. That government was of no political consequence in global matters.
15But he rebelled against him in sending his ambassadors into Egypt, that they might give him horses and much people. Shall he prosper? shall he escape that doeth such things? or shall he break the covenant, and be delivered?
Egypt is the second great eagle toward which the vine (remnant of Judah under Zedekiah) spreads its roots. This is Judah seeking another ally in Egypt against Babylon. God asks the rhetorical questions: is this plan going to work? is Zedekiah going to break his deal with Nebuchadnezzar and be freed by Egypt? If Nebby finds out, will Zedekiah be allowed to live?
16As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely in the place where the king dwelleth that made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant he brake, even with him in the midst of Babylon he shall die. 17Neither shall Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company make for him in the war, by casting up mounts, and building forts, to cut off many persons: 18Seeing he despised the oath by breaking the covenant, when, lo, he had given his hand, and hath done all these things, he shall not escape.
The answer to all of the above questions is of course “no”. Zedekiah will be carried off to Babylon where he will die (2 Kings 25; Jer. 39) for rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar and breaking their treaty. Pharaoh won’t fight for Zedekiah either.
19Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; As I live, surely mine oath that he hath despised, and my covenant that he hath broken, even it will I recompense upon his own head.
God dislikes lying the breaking of one’s word or covenants. As Zedekiah broke his covenant with Nebuchadnezzar, Zedekiah also broke his covenant with God by making treaties with foreign nations, by mixing cultures, and tolerating and embracing their religions.
20And I will spread my net upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare, and I will bring him to Babylon, and will plead with him there for his trespass that he hath trespassed against me. 21And all his fugitives with all his bands shall fall by the sword, and they that remain shall be scattered toward all winds: and ye shall know that I the LORD have spoken it.
This goes back to Ezekiel 12:13 with the capture of Zedekiah and many of those who fled with him out the small gate in the king’s garden. Zedekiah will be brought to Babylon and God will “teach” him there of the error of his ways. Those that came with him will die (his sons particularly) or be scattered (his soldiers). This will all be done so that Zedekiah (and future generations like us) will understand that God always keeps His promises.
22Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent: 23In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it: and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar: and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell. 24And all the trees of the field shall know that I the LORD have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish: I the LORD have spoken and have done it.
This a promise of the coming Christ. Remember that Zedekiah was the last of the Davidic kings to sit on the throne in Jerusalem. No descendant of Coniah would sit on the throne of David (Jer. 22:28-30) and all of Zedekiah’s offspring were killed by Nebuchadnezzar. From the highest branch of the high cedar, that is to say from the line of David, will come a young (many generations down the road) twig (Christ) who is tender (of no physical beauty – Isa. 53:2). This twig will be placed on a high and eminent mountain. That is Christ will be made king over the greatest domain, the spiritual kingdom of God. This will be the new Israel. This new tree will have many branches (congregations and their leaders) with many fruits (individual Christians). This cedar, the church, the kingdom of Christ, will be goodly, that is it will follow God’s will. In sheltering fowl of every wing the church will welcome all humans of every nation. All other nations (trees) will see physical Judah brought low and the kingdom of Christ, spiritual Israel, made to prosper.
In Truth and Love,